Archives for category: politics

Like it or not, some people, a minority, have more clout than others. Than the demographic majority. That’s a fact.
Check Vilfredo Pareto’s principle, if you need more theoretical background.

Things tend to survive.
From the moving object which ‘wants’ to conserve its linear trajectory and speed – Newton’s first law, to the survival instinct which is manifest in all living organisms.

Those with more clout than the others, the elites, are included here. Among the things which want to survive.

As humans, the elites are endowed with consciousness. They are aware of their own status. And of their own fragility.

In time, they (should) have learned a few things.
– They are not infallible. Neither individually and nor as a class.
– When things get really bad – revolution grade bad, they have the most to loose. Regular Joe has nothing to loose but his shackles while the ‘landed gentry’ has everything to loose. Even if land itself has nowhere to go.
– The best way to preserve elite status is through the cunning use of the law.

The point being that these three ‘pearls of wisdom’ must be kept in balance. Whenever one of them is forgotten, things go south. Revolution grade south.

Let me deal with the last but not least one.

Any Law is nothing but the formal expression of an already existing reality.
It doesn’t matter whether that reality is ‘hard’ or ‘virtual’, all it has to do is to be ‘real’.
For example, Newton’s laws describe a portion of the physical reality which surrounds us. The penal codes, all over the world, are the formal expressions of the prevailing mores in each of the respective countries and territories. And both physical reality and prevailing mores are actual realities, even if the first is ‘hard’ while those belonging the second category are virtual. Both have consequences, hence both are real.

OK, very nice. Your theory covers the kind of laws which attempt to describe already existing realities.
But what about the laws which attempt to ‘regulate’ the future? For instance the laws which prevent us from smoking in public places or those which mandate us to pay a portion of our income at the end of the fiscal year? Where is the reality described by these laws?
In the head of those who had come up with them in the first place!
‘They’ had somehow managed to convince us to accept these laws. Which means that ‘their’ convictions had been strong enough to produce consequences. Hence their convictions had been ‘real’.

Among the laws which regulate the future are those which attempt to conserve the already present situation. Starting with the various Constitutions and all the way through to the anti rioting legislation.

If you look close enough, the special status of the elites has a special place – even if not always mentioned as such, in all these pieces of legislation.
Which is not necessarily bad. After all, we’ve already learned that elites do have a role to play in the well being of the social organism we all belong to.

The whole thing boils down to how protected those elites need to be?
In order for them to be able to properly play their role.

We are now faced with another question which needs to be answered.

‘Their role’?

To lead the masses? Where?!?

How about ‘to maximize the chances of survival’? For both the society as a whole and for them, the elite class, as a very important part of the whole?

Let me remind you of the ‘three pearls of wisdom’.

The elites are not infallible.
They are the ones with the most to loose. Hence they are the most interested in maintaining the status quo.
The most efficient way to insure stability is through the wise use of the law. Which must be written wisely and obeyed respectfully.

Hence it’s the elites which mostly need to act wisely.
They are the ones who need the most to constantly adjust their actions according to the consequences obtained.

‘OK, very nicely put.
But what has any of this to do with ‘laissez faire’?!?’

Laissez faire is, above all, an attitude.
A mental frame-work. A blue print, if you want.

An attitude which mandates each of us to do as we please, for as long as we don’t encounter adverse reactions.

For instance, this attitude would allow any of us to shoot ourselves in the foot, if we don’t mind the pain. Or shoot somebody else in the foot if he doesn’t protest.

And this is the real problem with laissez faire.

It cannot be written into law.

‘ ‘Shoot somebody else in the foot if he doesn’t protest’… What does that mean? There are laws against bodily harming others…’

Yes, true enough. But before any law is enforced, somebody has to notify those called to enforce that law…
If the hurt person is in no position to call the ‘cops’ or the ‘shooter’ is powerful/skillful enough to avoid the unpleasant consequences of his actions…

On the other hand, laissez faire is essential.

People do need to be free. It’s their nature to explore every available opportunity!
Specially so for the elites.
Remember their role? To maximize the chances of survival?
How would they be able to do that if nobody is allowed to do as they please? To explore, that is!

Hence the true role of the elites.
To constantly adjust the meaning of laissez faire to whatever happens around them.

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Reading this excellent article by James Poulter, BBC Three, I was reminded of Marx. Karl, not Groucho.

“The lower middle class, the small manufacturer, the shopkeeper, the artisan, the peasant, all these fight against the bourgeoisie, to save from extinction their existence as fractions of the middle class. They are therefore not revolutionary, but conservative. Nay more, they are reactionary, for they try to roll back the wheel of history. If by chance, they are revolutionary, they are only so in view of their impending transfer into the proletariat; they thus defend not their present, but their future interests, they desert their own standpoint to place themselves at that of the proletariat.”

 Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 1848.

The XX-th century had been torn apart by two totalitarian lines of thought. Communism and fascism/nazism.
The communists had backed their claims on Marx’s class struggle while the fascists/nazists had used a plethora of other authors as pretexts. Despite the differences, the results had been the same. Callous spin doctors had used popular discontent to get uncontested possession of the political levers. And kept playing with them until entire countries crumbled under their own weight.

But what was it that made some nations destroy themselves on the left side of the authoritarian spectrum while others have done the same thing but on the right side?

The nature of the popular discontent!

At any given point, the majority of the people living in a country might see itself as being in one of the following three situations:
– Leading a relatively comfortable life and having a decent perspective to improve its lot or at least to maintain its present status.
– Having always led a bad life and finding absolutely no perspective of improvement.
– Having led a relatively good life for a while, lost that status and finding no way to resume it.

According to Marx, the first situation would have necessarily led to the third and, eventually, to communism.
According to history, people living in the second situation had always been manipulated into communism while people struggling in the third have been led into fascism/nazism.

Meanwhile, people living in the first situation have remained there for as long as they maintained their social cohesion. But that will be the subject of another post.

 

“God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Hence all people, male and female, have been created equal. Simply because all of them have been cast in the same mould.
And all of them, male and female, harbor a spark of divinity. Simply because the mould into which all of them have been cast had been made “in the image of God”.

Simple logic would tell us that all people who believe mankind had been made in the image of God would behave in a certain manner.
Because of the reasons I mentioned above.
That kind of behavior had been called ‘ethical’ by well established thinkers. Plato, for instance.

“Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.” “

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“This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens.
Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground”

Same simple logic I’ve invoked earlier tells me that God had created ‘the heavens and earth’ in two different stages. More or less like we do things.
First we think about the things we are going to do – ‘design them’ would be a more modern term, and then we put our thoughts into practice. ‘Execute’ our designs, according to the practical aspects which always limit our actions.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

The Bible itself seems to agree with me. When God finally decided to put into practice his idea of a man, he started with something he already had at his disposal. Just like we have to do whenever we attempt to accomplish anything.
“Dust from the ground”.
Man, ‘made in the image of God’, was fashioned from already available material, not from ‘thin air’.

Could this be the origin of man’s limitations?
His ‘earthly’ nature, no matter his divine likeliness?
Could this be the reason for God going back on his words?

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” “

What made God change his mind?
In Genesis 1 – the R&D phase?, he had planned a world where man was allowed to feed on everything under the sun while in Genesis 2 he had established rules about what Adam was allowed to eat and what not.
Furthermore, why make a ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ in the first place? If you were going to forbid your favorite pet from eating its fruit, under the most drastic penalty…

No!
This is not yet another half backed attempt to deny the existence of God under the pretext that the only source describing its existence is full of inconsistencies.
Pretending that God does not exist simply because those who tried to describe him had not been able – or willing ?, to present a more coherent image of him is equivalent to pretending that God exists simply because we haven’t found, yet, an exhaustive explanation for everything.

You ‘see’, the Bible, no matter how holly we might consider it to be, is nothing but an image of God. A Man made image of God.
A Man written image of God, to be more precise.

The fact that the Bible is chock-full of wisdom can not be denied.
Which fact remains true regardless of whether it had been written ‘under guidance’ or ‘on their own’ by a group of ‘free agents’. Or, even, by a combination of both.
Unfortunately, there is another fact which seemingly contradicts the first. The Bible had been used as pretext for horrible crimes. Committed by ‘over-zealous’ believers, by ruthless ‘self serving’ operators or by a strange combination of both.

In order to encompass the simultaneous existence of both aforementioned facts each of us must take a step back-wards.
Extract ourselves from the fry.

Each of us must start thinking for ourselves.

How to do that – become ‘independent’, and yet preserve our chances to survive? As in remain connected with the day to day, hard-core reality?

Stay tuned. That will be my next subject.

Some people consider individual liberty to be supreme.
Nothing else comes even near, except for private property. Which is seen as the practical embodiment of freedom.

‘Me and my property, free from any outside intervention’.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

I agree.

Some others consider ‘community’ to be the most important thing.
Or various alternatives. ‘Traditions”, “elders” and so on.

I also agree!

And here comes the tricky part.
While ‘traditionalists’ have dominated for most of human history the ‘individualists’ have gradually gotten the upper hand during the last 2 to 3 centuries.
For example, Confucianist China – traditionalist by definition, had been the first civilized nation. It had a very productive economy when Europe’s was primitive and a sophisticated culture when Europe was yet learning to read and write. Yet it had been the Europeans who had invented ‘science’ and who eventually dominated China. For a while, at least…

So. In the end, it seems that individualism trumps traditionalism… or that it had been able to do it at least once…

But there’s a catch.
Ever since individualism got the upper hand, humankind had experienced her worst crises. Not only more intense but also more often ones. And almost always starting in the Euro-Atlantic area. WWars, most economic crises, ‘erosion of values’…
Only this hasn’t always been the case. Historically, China also had her share of wars – both ‘civil’ and with her neighbors, the Spaniards had been able to conquer Central and South America simply because those living there had been at each-others throat when the Spaniards had landed… and so on.
Not to forget the huge number of wars fought inside Europe, between European ‘factions’.
Then what if European individualism wasn’t the whole explanation for what had happened? What if Europe had been able to basically impose her Weltanschauung over the rest of the world simply because she had kept, at least for a while, her trade-mark individualism under control? At least when ‘domestic’ matters where at stake…

When Europeans dealt with other Europeans…
Remember the rules governing King Arthur’s Round Table. What chivalry used to mean. The Geneva Convention, so often invoked and less and less observed as conflict took place further and further away from Geneva.

My point being that freedom – and private property, don’t make much sense unless accompanied by at least some mutual respect. While mutual respect won’t take you very far unless exercised amongst free agents.

Freedom understood as ‘ending where my nose starts’ is nothing but a continuous bout of fisticuffing.
Preserving your ‘private property’ against all others is hopeless while preserving it in a collaborative way – as we currently do, is a breeze. As long as enough of us consider theft to be unacceptable, of course.

I was speaking a little earlier about ‘mutual respect among free agents’.
In a sense, the phrase is an overkill. Respect cannot be mutual unless it is extended among free agents. And if those who show respect are not free, that respect is neither genuine nor mutual.
This being the reason for which whenever respect ceases to be expressed among free agents it becomes nothing more than ‘window dressing’.

Hence useless when push comes to shove. When people need to gather together. To cooperate towards their common good.
Towards their common survival.

Nowadays, too many individuals are afraid of freedom. Specially of other people’s freedom, since other people’s freedom might bring in ‘unwelcome’ change.
Other people’s freedom might challenge our established way of life.
And why risk it?

Still interested?
History strongly suggests that societies which had considered the stability of their ‘established way of life’ to be more important than the freedom of any individual member to respectfully question everything have eventually failed to preserve that over-cherished way of life. Simply because those societies had not allowed their individual members to adapt their mores to the changes which inevitably alter the ‘environment’.

Conclusion?
Liberty is of utmost importance.
For both individuals and societies, equally.
And, as a matter of historical fact, real – as in ‘truly functional’, freedom can be achieved only together. By the individual members of a society, acting in concert. Through a robust mechanism of checks and balances – a.k.a. real justice, based on mutual respect between the members of the society attempting to maintain this arrangement.

Warning!
Since we currently experience a growing distrust among the members of many societies – America and Western Europe included, no wonder that actual individual liberty is sliding down a dangerous slope.
Simply because nobody is going to defend the liberty of somebody they do not trust/respect.

https://i.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/001/178/733/780.jpg

Last time I checked, for a rebellion to make sense, it had to be against some precise thing. Otherwise…

On the other hand, there are only two kinds of freedom.
‘Against all others’ – which starts as anarchy and very soon becomes atrocious dictatorship. Where the dictator is free to rule and the oppressed are free do obey. Or to attempt to climb into the dictator’s shoes…
Or ‘with all others’. Also known as ‘democracy’. The real thing, of course, not the ‘mob rule’ variety which is currently creeping upon us.

Hence the only sensible rebellion would be the one against any form of dictatorship and ‘executed’ in concert with the rest of the oppressed.

An old Romanian saying posits that when God wants to punish someone, He starts by dulling their wits.

What if ‘fake news’ are a symptom of (some of the) journalists having earned the wrath of God?
Or is it the whole countries whom God wants to teach a lesson? Or two?


https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/vladimir-putin-says-he-has-never-made-a-mistake-because-god-wanted-him-to-be-perfect-10309628.html

The relatively flat layout of most parliamentary chambers has induced in us the idea that society is linear. From left to right and backwards.
Also, the current almost ubiquitous existence of parliaments drove us to forget that until recently – historically speaking, of course, most societies have been punctiform. The sovereign king was the only one able/entitled to make any significant decision…

Meanwhile we are told by the political scientists that long term political stability can be achieved only through ‘checks and balances’. Meaning that the state has to be organized in such a way that nobody can get amass too much power.
Actually most modern states have an executive, a legislative body and a judiciary. Each of them performing their specific tasks while keeping a jealous eye on the other two.

The problem with long term political stability being that it is a very abstract goal while most people just want to be happy. And are willing to go at considerable lengths in order to achieve their goals….

And it’s exactly here where ideologues start to argue among themselves

Some say that the individual is sacrosanct. That individual freedom is the most important value that is and the most fundamental ‘human right’.
Others say that society is more important than any individual. That all individuals should put themselves at the service of the society and that individual liberty pales when confronted with social necessity.
And a third category consider that democracy is a waste of time and of opportunity. That the best for any society is that a capable person/group of persons to be given absolute power over it. The rationale being that ‘the capable’ will take good care of their ‘property’. A far better kind of care than any group of bickering politicians would ever be able to offer….

On the practical side, those preoccupied with ‘freedom’ consider that the main duty of the state is to preserve/protect individual liberty. That people, once free, will know how to achieve their personal happiness.
The socially minded consider that individual happiness cannot exist before/outside the well being of the entire society. Hence the ‘rational citizen’ has to postpone (read forget) any personal goals and sublimate their own persona into the society.
‘The more capable than the rest’ consider that the ‘incapable’ cannot be trusted with defining their own goals and have to be told what to do. For their own good!

It is very easy to observe that none of the three ‘ideal types’ described above doesn’t work on its own. That each have been experimented and found to be ‘unpractical’, to say the least.

Individual absolute freedom exists. The Saan living in the Kalahari desert and the  Baka in the Cameroon don’t have any formal rules, no social hierarchy and are absolutely free to do as they please. Both have been easily overcome, their habitat is being encroached/destroyed by their ‘neighbors’ and have been able to survive only by going further and further away from anything.
Socially minded people have, time and time again, congregated. Only to witness their communities dissolve or develop malignantly. From the early christian settlements to the XiX-th century phalansters.
The ‘know better’ is, apparently at least, the most successful arrangement. All kingdoms and empires have been organized according to this principle.
And all of them eventually failed. Even Plato’s idea of ‘king priests’ has led to Alexander the Great’s ultimately disastrous campaign into the Middle East. Not to mention the fact that the erstwhile mighty Athens had fallen into anonymity just after starting to be governed by specially trained rulers.

Since the pure ideal types didn’t work, let’s see what we get if we combine them.

Since I’ve been experimenting it for the first 30 years of my life, I’ll start with the result of crossing ‘social minded’ with ‘know better’. Does ‘communism’ ring any bells with you?
Let’s cross ‘liberty’ with ‘know better’. Actually this has already been done. It was about liberty for those who knew better… Nazism, and its newer variants, are the first examples which come to mind.
And the most interesting result comes from crossing freedom with social minded. This has also been experimented. In the democratic Ancient Athens and in during the truly Republican phase of the Roman Empire. The same combination was used by the vikings and somehow perpetuated to this day. Its offshoots being the western style democracy.

Which democracy – just like the Roman Empire, will survive for only as long as it will conserve both individual freedom and social mindedness while allowing, but only when needed, the ‘know better’ to take over for the short periods of time when their presence at the helm is absolutely necessary.

At any given moment, things are the intersection between ‘what could have been’ and ‘what we wanted out of that situation’.

It’s obvious, for even the most careless observer, that something must be possible before our wishes might start shaping that something.

My point being that we are not necessary for nature to exist but we do bear the responsibility for what has happened since we started to wish.

Let’s consider a hydroelectric dam, for example.
For us to be able to build one, we first need a river. A big enough one, flowing through a certain configuration of terrain… but nevertheless, we need a river. Before everything else.
Yet it’s not the presence of the river which is responsible for the existence of the dam. We, the builders, have built it. We are responsible for it.

And this is valid for other things too, not only for the ‘material’ ones.

Democracy, for example.

War taught us that destruction is not inevitable. Wars have to be started before destruction begins.
After killing each-other for long enough we’ve learned that we’re not so different.
We bleed the same kind of blood and our mothers weep the same tears.
Eventually, we replaced war with sport.

History taught us that democracy works better, in the longer run, than authoritarianism.
That observing the world from multiple perspectives – and pooling the data, leads to way better results than meekly following orders.

Both war and sports are ample demonstrations that winning is temporary and surviving trumps everything else.
And, contrary to our ‘immediate urges’, that fair play goes a lot further towards survival than ‘winning at all costs’.

Similarly, both surviving and decaying/crumbled down democracies are compelling proof that democracy is based on mutual respect between the members of the democratically self governed community.
And that when ever that mutual respect starts to vanish, democracy – the real thing, starts to fade. Usually into ‘mob rule‘. And further, if the process is allowed to continue.

So.
What’s gonna be?
Are we going to allow our craving for ‘success’ to return sport to blood sport? A.k.a war?
And to demote functional democracy, oriented towards the survival of the community as a whole, to mob rule?
Declaratively geared – by the interested party, towards the putative survival of the ‘establishment’? Never, as yet, achieved even on the medium term… let alone the long one

Present owes just as much to Reaction, if not more, as it does to Revolution
Ilie Badescu, PhD.

Newton had noticed  that everything, no matter how ‘inanimate’, reacts whenever ‘prodded’. And, maybe even more importantly, that the reaction is exactly balances the ‘prodding’.
Provided that the ‘prodding’ doesn’t actually ‘destroy’ the ‘target’, of course. But even then, some ‘reaction’ is always exerted against the ‘intruder’.
Walking, for instance. Whenever we walk on tarmac, our weight is fully supported by the pavement. When walking on dry, fine sand, our feet leave an impression. Our weight is eventually counterbalanced but not before some local ‘readjustments’ have been made. Finally, when walking in knee deep water, our feet completely ‘destroy’ the layer of liquid before reaching the ‘terra firma’ below. But not without having been met by some hydrodynamic resistance – which is far greater than the aerodynamic one we constantly overcome when walking on dry land.

Darwin had noticed that species either evolve – and survive, or ‘go under’ whenever something changes in the environment they had been accustomed to.
It’s a no brainer to remark that here the reaction is no longer as instantaneous nor as ‘equally opposed’ as in the first case.

Since Berger and Luckman’s The Social Construction of Reality it is tacitly accepted that our fate is heavily influenced by our actions.
Some of those inclined to entertain religious beliefs will now add that it is our actions which take us to hell or to heaven but since there have always been some ‘misunderstandings’ between the various currents …
Anyway.
My point is that in this third case, each specific ‘reaction’ is actively shaped by the individual ‘reactionary’. According to their own projections of the future, to the prevailing, socially adopted and individually internalized, rules and to the individual understanding of the until then discovered ‘natural laws’.

And that our future, as a species/civilization, is being shaped now.
By us.
Using whatever cultural heritage our ancestors have left us and, maybe more important, according to our limited understanding of the world.
And according to our wishes, of course.

It will be our children who will bear the brunt of our current decisions.

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